This idea springs from words of wisdom passed on to me when I was a newcomer to cycling, in the early seventies. I think it applies today and to any sport. This is how it goes: The winner of a race is different from the rest, he/she is the only one. You have to be different to win, so think, train, prepare and race differently.
Applied to the sport of running, the idea would translate something like this: Don’t let anything fill you with awe, or fear. A marathon is not far, you can train and complete the run. That’s all it is, a run. Don’t be beaten before you start, don’t see it as a mountain to climb. Think success, not failure. Prepare for it, then complete it. The same goes for an ultra. It’s only a longer run. Just do it.
Train in the way that suits you. Read books, biographies and the like, but take from them that which will be useful to you. You are different, you can train your way. When you come to a slope where everyone walks, run it. Train when “normal” runners would not (say, before or after a race, in bad weather, or Christmas day.) Train harder, further, longer than anyone else.
Prepare for races in ways that suit you. Do not follow others’ expectations of what you should do. I once rode 120 miles through the night to ride a race. I did OK. And then I rode back, another 120 miles. A month later I hit good form. I don’t think it was a coincidence. Be prepared to sacrifice some races in order to excel in others. Not every race is of equal importance.
Don’t follow expectations when it comes to the race. You have trained and prepared in your way, so race in your way. Conventional wisdom may say you should start steady, but if you have the fitness, you might do better by putting in an early burst. Don’t get tired when everyone else does, don’t slow when they slow, don’t settle for what they are settling for. Reach out, stretch for your goal.
The danger of sticking to received wisdom is that you will become a very average runner. Break the “rules”, you will make some mistakes, but learn from them, and you may become a runner who is well above “average”.
You may never win a race, but you can excel, you can perform at a level way beyond the expected, way beyond what your own expectations were. You can have your own victory. Break the rules. My first run (Post1) was 10 miles. I had to do some walking over the last three miles. I’ve not read any training plan that suggests starting with 10 miles off road as a first run. I’m 60 years of age next, but I don’t intend running like your average 60 year old. This is my first full year of running and competing, but I don’t intend performing like a novice.